Common sense says you should follow whomever you want. But recently I read a post by a blogger who felt everyone on Twitter—especially those in "leadership" positions—should follow everyone back.
It might sound good in theory, but here are some thoughts to ponder:
Some followers may not be worthy of a follow back. If you check before you click the "follow" button, you might find:
• Accounts that have posted no tweets.
Maybe their abandoned accounts have been taken over by squatters, or they could be fake accounts created for people who buy followers.
• Questionable content — X-Rated timelines; "Tweeps" (Twitter peeps) who use a lot of foul language; Businesses that tweet exclusively about their products and services; Tweeps who post spam or tweet the same message over and over
• Accounts that broadcast one-way outgoing feeds with no interaction with anyone
• Those who use TrueTwit validation to weed out "bots." TrueTwit DMs are off-putting, so they end up weeding out people, too
• Tweeps whose timelines are primarily Foursquare notifications, or shares about what they are watching on television or YouTube
• Someone with a private account.
You can't view their timelines, and it forces you to request to follow them back without being able to see what they tweet
• People who tweet in another language
Some observations about following:
It takes time and energy to curate a timeline that offers value. Some people work hard to earn their follows by establishing connections, engaging and sharing interesting content.
Recently I did an audit and found I was following more than 500 people who hadn't tweeted in up to two years, plus hundreds more who hadn't tweeted in three months or longer. Social sites like Twitter experience growth as well as attrition when discovered by new users. If they lose interest, often their accounts go dormant.
Dormant or inactive followers may have a negative impact on your account from an analytic standpoint. Rating entities like Klout, , Kred and PeerIndex are looking not only at the number of followers you have, but also how many engaged followers you have.
Why follow someone who hasn't tweeted for a long time?
• If you know someone in real life, on the off-chance they check to see if you're still there, it's probably best to keep the connection.
• You "meet" a nice tweep, and they disappear. Real-life trumps virtual, and they might be on an extended break. If you keep the connection, it's not unusual for people to resurface.
• For personal reasons There are two people I follow who are actually DEAD. I continue to follow them out of my regard for them while they were alive.
Following everyone back can backfire. Some well-known tweeps were following a troll . Though well-regarded, they don't check out their followers. By returning a troll's follow, they implicitly gave him their stamp of approval.
Often people passively follow someone, then feel bugged and unfollow if they aren't followed back. If you want someone to follow you, try sending them a tweet directly. It's more likely to get their attention and get them to follow you.
While some people feel good because there are accounts who will follow back every person, they're the exception rather than the rule.
What makes a good follow back? It depends on what you seek. I like to follow people who engage, or share things of interest to me. As one of my early mentors, @raybeckerman , once told me, it's good to see a mixture of content and conversations. It points to an active participant in this global chat room we call Twitter.
A few ways to determine a good follow back:
• If you enjoy conversing with someone and find they're following you
• Read the bio or check out blog links/URLs
• Look at timelines to see if you like the kinds of things they share,
• If you have friends in common and trust their judgment
Even if someone's timeline is completely flooded with conversations, not every person is followed because of their content. Sometimes they are followed because they are friendly, interesting, fun or nice!
There aren't any fail-safe indicators, but taking time to see if you really want to follow someone will help you build a nice community for yourself.
People who vet followers can become targets of poachers
It's useful to check out your followers, but it's also time consuming. And those who vet their followers are sometimes used by others.
People focused on building big followings can target accounts they know care about the quality of the people they follow. When a targeted account follows someone, the "poachers" will follow them, too, using tools like Tweetadder . Since poachers are often popular people, they know it's almost certain they will be followed back. Poaching makes it easy for them to add quality followers without investing much time.
Poaching is a bit like having someone look over your shoulder to copy your test answers in school, but where that would be cheating in the real world, it's not against Twitter's terms of service.
Each of us has the right to follow, not follow, UNfollow, or block people for whatever reasons are chosen.
Do you agree? What are your thoughts about following everyone back?
Thanks to Eleanor Jodway for being an early reader of this post
Illustration purchased on iStockphoto.com